|"Les grandes douleurs sont muettes."
Great sorrow is silent.
"What a lovely evening!" Mrs. Heath gushed. "Mrs. Norrington is enchanting, don't you agree?"
"Absolutely," Gillette confirmed, wondering once again if he really was the only person in Port Royal who didn't like Captain Norrington's wife. He had mistrusted her from the moment they had been introduced. For a long while, he had tried to convince himself that she was truly the charming, hospitable and witty woman she pretended to be, and that his negative reaction was merely childish jealousy.
But after a year, he knew he was right: Anne Norrington was not the woman everybody believed her to be. They didn't call him 'The Manchester' without reason - he smelled a rat when there was one, even if it was one with a pretty face. He had kept this knowledge to himself, though - he would never take it upon himself to tell James Norrington who his wife really was and where she came from. Just what had possessed Norrington to marry her in the first place? It certainly hadn't been love.
"Now look at that, my little Diane is standing there all alone. If only some kind gentleman would ask the poor child to dance..."
"I'm sure someone will eventually, Mrs. Heath," Gillette replied. Damn the woman - she had two unmarried daughters, and even after all her attempts at setting him up with the older one had failed, she was now resolutely pursuing him as a match for 'sweet little Diane', who had a striking resemblance to an oyster toadfish.
Mrs. Heath sniffed and returned her attention to her glass of punch. Meanwhile, Gillette watched Anne Norrington, who was surrounded by admiring friends and neighbours, laughing frequently at barmy jokes told by a fawning courtier. From time to time, she would turn her head and direct a smile at him, but he wasn't fooled: she hated him as much as he hated her.
It had been a gut feeling that made him test the wine she had given her husband for the voyage two months ago. One sip, and Gillette had spent the next hours bent over the railing of the Joyful Molly. For him there could be no doubt that the wine had been poisoned, so he had 'accidentally' dropped the bottle and counted himself lucky that the wine hadn't contained a stronger poison.
Gillette saw it as his God-given duty to hover over Norrington's safety and well-being like an eagle. There had been too many narrow escapes and near-accidents during the year of Norrington's marriage to let him dismiss the wine incident as merely a coincidence.
He watched Anne Norrington whispering to her friends; they all looked quickly over at him and giggled. Gillette scowled.
"A fascinating woman, don't you agree, Mr. Gillette?"
Gillette's icy glare upon seeing Lord Cutler Beckett standing beside him made the room temperature drop by ten degrees.
"It's not for me to make any judgement about the wife of a superior officer, my lord." Gillette's nose twitched and he tried hard to suppress a sneeze; Cutler Beckett was, as usual, surrounded by a cloud of heavy perfume. Nothing escaped the lord, and he graced Gillette with his most winning smile.
"How unfortunate that you can't recognise female beauty when you see it. A good thing that you can appreciate the wonderful world of scents, though. How do you like my latest acquisition? Eau sans Pareille, directly from Paris. All their faults aside, the French know how to enjoy life."
Gillette had already had some wine, and Cutler Beckett was to him what a red flag was to a bull: an irresistible temptation to attack. He sniffed, then looked up at the ceiling, as if contemplating Cutler Beckett's words.
"That scent reminds me of a certain brothel in Holborn."
Cutler Beckett grinned.
"I had no idea His Majesty's Navy paid so little that its officers must seek other sources of income while on shore leave. What a pity I didn't know – I might have been tempted to come and visit you."
He was happy as Punch when he saw how Gillette's face turned brick-red with anger, and he decided to have one more dig at the officer.
"Actually, I might consider investing in such entertainment if you should ever be strapped for cash, Mr. Gillette. I've always been curious to find out if there is any truth in the myth that the red-haired are especially libidinous."
Gillette gnashed his teeth, trying very hard not to lose his temper. He might still have lashed out at Cutler Beckett if he hadn't noticed the absence of James Norrington. He looked around, but the man was nowhere in sight. Maybe in the drawing room? Gillette decided to check.
"I'm sure you will find somebody to discuss this interesting theory with, Lord Beckett. I noticed Mr. Mercer's hair shows a touch of red in the sunlight. If not, I'm sure someone will find you a suitable goat. Now please excuse me, I have important business to attend to."
With that, he left to look for Norrington, followed by Cutler Beckett's mocking laughter.
* * *
Norrington could see his reflection in the window. A captain in dress coat, holding a glass of punch. He looked unhappy, and while his sense of duty didn't allow him to mull over his life while commanding the Joyful Molly, he felt he had a right to feel miserable in his spare time. Anne had made it clear very soon after their marriage that she didn't wish him to interfere with her life but was happy to act the perfect wife and hostess as long as he was willing to pay her bills.
At times, she truly scared him. Being cuckolded by her had been bad enough, but finding out his rival was Lord Cutler Beckett had been the most humiliating experience of his life. Driving a dagger into his heart had not been enough for Anne, she had to twist it as well. How else should he interpret her untiring efforts at inviting Elizabeth Swann to her festivities?
At least Elizabeth had been kind enough to turn every invitation down, claiming that it would have been unseemly to appear at festivities so soon after her father's death. He didn't know how he would react upon seeing her again. Two months after his wedding she had returned, telling a wild story about being kidnapped by Captain Jack Sparrow, and how she had heroically freed herself and fled.
Norrington didn't believe a word of it, but this just went to prove that he and Will Turner had a lamentable knowledge of human nature, at least where their women were concerned. Had Will been here, he would probably have laughed at this farce.
His fingers tightened around the glass. No, Will wouldn't have laughed. Will would have understood.
Norrington had returned to Port Royal and tried to resume his duties, to pretend nothing had happened and that all was fine. But he couldn't. Not a day went by without him wondering where Will was, how he was doing, if he was happy and whether he thought of him as well.
Norrington's body had returned to Port Royal, but his mind and heart had stayed on that island. In his dreams, he saw the shadow of Will's pale, naked body diving through the water. He imagined tasting the salt and the sweat he'd kissed off his skin. Upon awakening and realising that Will was still gone and he was still trapped in Port Royal, Norrington would have welcomed a bullet through his heart.
"Good grief, Sir, let me help you!"
Norrington shook his head, trying to clear it of his musings, like a sleeper who had been awoken too swiftly. His eyes focussed on Gillette, who held his hand and plucked shards of the broken glass out of his flesh. He hadn't even noticed that he'd broken it. He only saw Gillette's worried face while he tended to the wound, and watched the blood drip down.
The realisation that he had ruined one of Anne's carpets filled him with great satisfaction.
* * *
Ragetti's random notes: Yes, Mrs. Heath is a little homage to Jane Austen. A moment of weakness, please forgive me.
Eau sans Pareille did really exist; it was a very popular scent in France during the 18th century. I think it's safe to say that Lord Cutler Beckett has a certain affinity with France.
The proper way for Gillette to address Lord Cutler Beckett would be "Lord Cutler Beckett". He's only using the last part of the name because he's trying to insult his lordship by not giving him all due respect. Don't tell me you're surprised by this attitude…
|CHAPTER 3: Not Quite Home Yet
by Molly Joyful